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World's largest moth makes early appearance in S'pore this year

By Ryan Huang, Channel NewsAsia
17 August 2007

SINGAPORE: Pupae of the world's largest moth, Atlas Moth, seem to be making an early appearance on the island this year.

A tree by Singapore's Sungai River has recently become home to Atlas Moth caterpillars, which is common in Southeast Asia, especially Singapore.

They are usually spotted between November and January, but they have appeared earlier than usual this year.

"I was brisk walking, and saw the leaves all eaten up and the tree was almost bare. I counted almost 80 caterpillars,” said Koh Keow Chan, a nature enthusiast.

He supposed the rain that suddenly came during the hot months of July and August might have led to the early appearance of the caterpillars.

The caterpillars may look cute, but it is best to leave them alone.

"If it's a small one, then you feel a lot of itch. If it's a big one, then u feel a lot of pain. It's really like a sting," said Stefanie Fam, who was once bitten by an Atlas Moth caterpillar.

Atlas Moth, so named because of the map-like patterns on its wings, is also known as the Snake Head Moth, referring to the its wing tips’ resemblance to a snake’s head.

When fully grown, it can have a wingspan of some 30 centimetres.

Atlas Moth is nocturnal, with a lifespan of around two weeks.

Yet, traces of their delicate beauty live on in a different form as broken cocoons of the moths are often used to make fagara silk, commonly used in Taiwan to make purses. - CNA/ac

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